On Community. And Enthusiasm. And saying no to ‘Cool’.

This is a blog about community. 

1. A group of people living together in one place, esp. one practicing common ownership: “a community of nuns”.
2. All the people living in a particular area or place: “local communities”.

When we were planning our move to Victoria, I craved community. I couldn’t wait to know my neighbours, walk to the grocery store and feel like I belonged here. Kind of like how I feel in Yellowknife, back home. While I’m not quite there yet in my neighbourhood in Victoria, it’s had me thinking a lot about one of the most beautiful communities I’ve ever encountered; the Philippine Running Community.

In my race report about the Four Lakes 100 km/Old Spanish Trail 60 km I talked about this a bit, but I want to expand.

In North America, it is my experience that we as a group have a overarching goal, at all times to be ‘cool’. ‘Cool’ often involves being non-chalant and not all that enthusiastic. It’s not ‘cool’ to exude excitement and unabashed, genuine enthusiasm. This is something that I have struggled with over the years, and I actually have actively worked to ‘tone down’ my enthusiasm so as not to overwhelm those around me.

When the other racers arrived in Kayapa on the day before my first 100 km (Keith and I had been there for five days already), the whole village was bursting at the seems with ALL THINGS RUNNING. People were gushing over gear, proudly talking about their PR’s, exchanging ‘war’ stories from other races, and generally just totally geeking out about ultra running.

It was my experience that ‘cool’ was the complete opposite in the Philippines than in North America. It was actually COOL to be totally engaged, keen, and pumped up. It was cool to jam about the latest gear, compare running shoes, and talk about each person’s FEARS for the next day. And you know something that is almost too incredible to be able to put into words? Probably one quarter of the people registered in the race HAD NEVER ACTUALLY COMPLETED AN ULTRA.

Let me repeat that. There were people in the race who had yet to finish a race that they’d entered (and they had entered their fair share of races). They had DNF’d every ultra they had attempted. At first I thought, “Why not do shorter distances? Why not do something you know you can finish?”. But reflecting on this, I think it only further illustrates this incredibly supportive community. There is absolutely NO looking down on a DNF. In this culture, a DNF is leaps and bounds ahead of a DNS (did not start). Because you know what a DNF means? A DNF = Courage, Determination, Risk Taking. A DNF says “I tried my very best, and am damn proud of it”. Here at home, DNF is almost a ‘bad word’, one that indicates weakness of spirit and of body.

BUT I’M CALLING BULLSHIT. Bullshit on being cool. Bullshit on masking our true emotions. Bullshit on controlling our enthusiasm.

In the Philippines, a finish or a DNF means “I SHOWED UP AND FOUGHT WITH EVERYTHING I HAD”. It means, “I am present and engaged in my life”. It means “I am myself, without apology.

And in my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful demonstrations of community that I have ever had the honour of taking part in. 

(I’d like to again, from the bottom of my heart, thank the Philipino people for their love, kindness, and hospitality. I am forever grateful and can’t WAIT to come back some day and also to welcome and share with you MY community here in Canada)

4 thoughts on “On Community. And Enthusiasm. And saying no to ‘Cool’.

  1. Thanks for the nice words… you are always welcome to come here… hope you have more time to spent with us it will be more fun…

  2. Jill, your experience reminds me of a poem which I previously knew as “To Risk is to Live”, but upon searching the internet I found it to be titled “Risks”. One of the many powerful lines it contains is: “To expose your feelings is to risk showing your true self.” The authors are Janet Rand and John W. Johnston. I think you will really be able to relate to it(if you haven’t already read it).

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